History Repeats?

Posted January 1999

This is an amusing little tale that the folks at DuPuy Oxygen in Waco passed along to us. In the midst of all this talk of the impending Y2K problems, it puts it all into a slightly lighter perspective. Yogi Berra said it best: “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

While browsing through some dust-covered archival material in the recesses of the Roman Section of the Royal British Museum of Ancient History, a researcher recently came across a tattered bit of parchment. After some effort he translated it and found that it was a letter from a man called Plutonius with the title of “magister fastorium”, or keeper of the calendar, to one Cassius.

It was dated December 20, 1BC or a little more than 2000 years ago. The text of the message follows:

Dear Cassius,

Are you still working on the Y0K problem? This change from BC to AD is giving us a lot of headaches and we haven’t much time left. I don’t know how people will cope with working the wrong way around. Having been working happily downwards forever, we now have to start thinking upwards. You would think that someone would have thought of it earlier and not left it to us to sort out at this last minute.

I spoke to Caesar the other evening. He was livid that Julius hadn’t done something about it when he was sorting out the calendar. He said he could see why Brutus turned nasty. We called the consulting astrologers but they simply said that continuing downward using minus BC won’t work. As usual, they charged a fortune in gold, frankincense and myrrh for telling us what we already knew.

As for me, I can’t foresee the hourglass’ sand flowing upward. There’s talk of three wise men in the East working on the problem but unfortunately, they won’t arrive until it’s all over. I don’t have to remind you that there are those who say the world will cease to exist at the moment of transition.

But until then, be assured that we are continuing to work on this blasted Y0K problem and I will dispatch another parchment if anything further develops.